Chapter 1

Crisis in God’s Church

From the booklet Zechariah—The Sign of Christ’s Imminent Return
By Gerald Flurry

The central theme of Zechariah’s prophecy is God’s temple. Acknowledge this theme and the book is much easier to understand. Also, to understand this book, you must realize that the prophecy in it is dual. It was delivered to ancient Judah at the time of the construction of the second temple; however, God’s message through Zechariah could not be understood until our time—today!

God is working out His great master plan. That plan involves both the world and the Church. When we look at the plan of God operating in our day, we must realize that the events happening within God’s temple—the Church—are more important to God than events happening within the world. God’s main concern right now is with His Church, the people who are striving and struggling to do God’s Work and enter into His Family. Zechariah’s prophecy does deal with the destruction of Israel, but the book’s prophecies have more to do with building character than with destruction. This prophecy reveals that in this end time, some of God’s people are failing to build the character that God wants them to build! Are we building godly character in our lives? Zechariah holds a crucial message for all of God’s true Church today.

Be Not as Your Fathers

According to the Soncino Commentary, Zechariah came on the scene only two months after Haggai. “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, The Lord hath been sore displeased with your fathers” (Zechariah 1:1-2). God is displeased with us when we disobey Him. “Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of hosts” (verse 3). Several translations, including the Revised Standard Version, say the word turn is actually return. Return unto me! God is saying. This is addressed to people who had been with God and then turned away. It is speaking to the end-time Laodiceans.

“Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the Lord” (verse 4). God spoke and is speaking to them. But how? Through His human messenger today.

The former prophets cried this to Israel anciently, and they are crying the same message to the Laodiceans today. What God expects of His people is very plain. God wants us to turn to Him. If we turn to Him, He will turn to us. That is the way it works. If we don’t turn, He won’t turn! God pleads with us not to be like our fathers—ancient Israel. These people did not hear God. They did not respond to God’s call to repentance. They refused to turn to Him, so God had to punish them severely. That is not what God desires for us.

Yet today we see massive rebellion within the Church. God is highly displeased with the Laodicean Church today because of the turn it has taken.

God’s Words Abide Forever

Then Zechariah asks a penetrating question: “Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?” (Zechariah 1:5). Why did God inspire Zechariah to ask this? One, two or three prophets died; but the people who heard their messages were still alive. God wanted the people to think deeply about what they had witnessed. Do prophets live forever? No, they do not.

Zechariah 1:5 shows that God places a greater responsibility on those people who live at the same time as the prophet or apostle. God sends His prophets onto the scene; they deliver their God-inspired message, then they die like everyone else. So we had better take heed when we hear one of God’s prophets or apostles speaking to us.

In this end time we must also recognize this fact. Herbert W. Armstrong was God’s chosen apostle and God’s end-time type of Elijah (Matthew 17:11). He delivered God’s message, which you can prove from your own Bible, and now he is dead. He didn’t live forever—and that actually upset a lot of people! Look at what happened to the Church when he died. Even the commentaries say this verse is talking about the recent past. We know that is true.

Apostles die—that is the nature of physical life. So why should things be so radically different after Mr. Armstrong died? Why did God’s Church simply go spiritually crazy after he was gone? Clearly, the people had some weaknesses that they didn’t deal with. This verse certainly implies that they were looking to a man. Zechariah wants us to ask this question and to realize that time is short. Human beings don’t live long. We need to take advantage of the short span of time we’ve been given.

Prophets don’t live forever, and neither do apostles. But does that make the message null and void? God wants us to gain a certain perspective here. Although a prophet or an apostle does not live forever, something does live forever.

“But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? …” (Zechariah 1:6). Prophets or apostles do not live forever; God’s message or words, however, do live forever. When one of God’s leaders delivers a message, we must learn to put our focus in the right place. We should not look to the men who die, whose breath is just like the animal—they lose their breath and they are gone. We must look to God’s words that live forever. That is where we must focus.

Most people make the serious mistake of not focusing on God’s words. That is the problem within the Laodicean Church today. Herbert Armstrong is dead and gone. Many believe the words he spoke and wrote should have died with him. But they are God’s words!

“[A]nd they returned and said, Like as the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us” (verse 6). God punished the people in ancient Israel for having the wrong focus. God dealt with those people according to their doings. God will deal with us today in the same way.

God’s Global Work

The vision recorded in the next few verses is confusing to most, but the meaning can be easily understood. “Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white. Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be. And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth. And they answered the angel of the Lord that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest” (Zechariah 1:7-11). Zechariah didn’t know what this vision meant. He was somewhat daunted by these symbols. However, the angels prophesied that these symbols are easily understood when God reveals them to us. Let’s walk by faith and be determined to understand!

The angel showed him that the man, or angelic beings, riding horses represent God’s agents on the Earth.

We must realize that God and Christ direct their Work on the Earth through angelic beings. These angelic beings walk around the Earth and report back to God. God uses these beings to make sure His plan is carried out through the whole Earth, because God’s Work is a global work. God’s agents walk “to and fro” through the entire Earth.

End-Time Crisis in God’s Church

Study Zechariah 1:12-16. These verses show that Israel (today the United States and Great Britain) is in a great crisis.

Notice what God says in verse 17. “Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (verse 17). Remember, Zion in prophecy is a type of God’s Church (Hebrews 12:22-23). At the same time as Israel’s crisis, God has also decided to not yet choose or comfort Zion. In other words, the Church is also about to enter into the Great Tribulation with the nations of Israel. This verse shows that the Church is going to need to be comforted. God has not comforted it yet.

“Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns. And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. And the Lord shewed me four carpenters. Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it” (Zechariah 1:18-21). The four horns represent the power of God. God uses this power to carry out His plans. God has the power to comfort Zion but He refuses to do so. Why?

“Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the Lord” (Zechariah 2:6). God sends a message to Jerusalem (or Israel) to flee from the land of the north. The “land of the north” is referring to Germany and the European Union. God is telling people that they had better run—the fearsome king of the north is coming!

Who is this talking to? He says, “I have spread you abroad.” During the Tribulation, physical and spiritual Israel—that is, those who are not protected in a place of safety—are going to be spread abroad! Because of their sins, God is going to do that personally! That should strike fear in people.

God makes His warning even stronger in the next verse: “Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon” (verse 7).

Here is Zion, God’s own Laodicean Church, dwelling with the daughter of Babylon!

God tells Zion to deliver themselves from this same political conglomerate. God does not plan to deliver them. Why? Because they are “dwell[ing] with the daughter of Babylon”—spiritually.

God promises the Philadelphians a place of protection (Revelation 3:10; 12:14). So this message must be directed at God’s Laodicean Church. How is the Laodicean Church dwelling with the daughter of Babylon? By the doctrines it teaches. The Worldwide Church of God (wcg) now teaches a gospel emphasizing the person of Jesus Christ rather than the message He brought. Essentially, the wcg is teaching Babylonian doctrine. (To learn more, request The True History of God’s True Church.)

That problem also afflicts those churches that left the wcg, except the Philadelphia Church. They have become Laodicean, or lukewarm. (For proof, request our free book Malachi’s Message to God’s Church Today.)

How does God feel about these Laodicean changes? He warns that if you get all tangled up with Babylon, then you will have to deliver yourself! There is a great world crisis coming. The European Union (or as God calls it, Babylon) will wreak untold havoc on this world. God plans to deliver His Philadelphia Church from this Tribulation. But God says to the Laodiceans, you deliver yourselves from what is coming! The Laodiceans no longer believe in a place of protection, so God refuses to protect them. The great tragedy is that the Laodiceans will not be able to deliver or protect themselves.

If the Laodiceans don’t trust God, then when the Tribulation comes, God is going to leave them without protection. That’s what He is saying.

This is strong correction that the Laodiceans today need to hear! We have been talking about the place of safety for decades, and yet so many of God’s people today dismiss it. That does not change the truth of the Bible!

God is going to teach us to tremble before His every word—one way or another—or we cannot inherit His Kingdom.

The Apple of God’s Eye

Though God is giving blistering correction, we must never forget why. Is it because He hates the Laodiceans? No—it is because they are His sons! His love for them is unfathomable—and He is doing all He can to bring them back! “For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8).

Does God not love the Laodiceans? They are the apple of His eye! Literally that means the gate through which light enters the eye. This group of people is so very important to God!

“For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me” (verse 9). This is the prophet talking. Prophetically speaking, it is referring to a type of Zechariah during the Laodicean era. Those people who refuse to accept God’s word are going to know that God sent a man in this end time. This is a promise: God tells this man, You deliver the message, and I guarantee the time will come when they will know it’s a message from me. It’s only a matter of when. (That is fully explained in my free booklet Who Is ‘That Prophet’?)

The Rotherham Version renders verse 9, “Thus says the Eternal of hosts, for his own honor has he sent me unto the nations that are spoiling you, and you shall know that the God of hosts has sent me.” God sent this man—for His own honor! The Jerusalem Bible reads, “The Eternal says this, ‘He whose glory has sent me here, as regards the nations who spoiled you.’” The Septuagint says, “The Almighty has sent me to you.”

People can reason around this today, but sooner or later the truth will come out, and all mankind will know what God was doing. They will have to admit that God sent this message.

Zechariah 1 is talking about those angelic agents. Zechariah 2 is really talking about the prophet being sent by God.

Dwell in Your Midst

Even though God plunges the Laodiceans into the Tribulation, He does so for their benefit. “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee” (Zechariah 2:10-11). You can’t say this is a gloomy message. First of all, God gives another gigantic promise of hope: He says that very soon, many nations are going to join themselves with God! Not a few nations, but many nations!

And how will God respond? By dwelling right in their midst! When the nations repent, God will dwell with them. The whole world has a wonderful future to look forward to! What a hope!

Even the Laodiceans still have this glorious opportunity. If they would only turn from their sin and return to God, He would dwell within them today.

Again at the end of verse 11 you have this statement from the prophet, that people in this end time are going to know that God sent a man to warn them. When the time comes that they repent, Zechariah is going to tell them, and God is going to show them, just who we are.

Mr. Armstrong did not understand very much about the books of Haggai and Zechariah—because he didn’t need to. God simply didn’t reveal it to him. But today, we need to understand this, because it is specifically for this last era of God’s Church. There’s just a little time left to understand it! And God tells us, Look—I did the sending! All of this understanding and revelation—it came from me!

He’s talking about a man here, but we have to see how God is behind it. The same was true of Mr. Armstrong, who was an end-time type of Zerubbabel. As Zechariah also wrote, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you” (Zechariah 4:9). People are going to know God sent that man! God uses men—but the focus must remain on the great God who did the sending!

All Flesh

“And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again” (Zechariah 2:12). Notice that! Two times within this passage (here and in Zechariah 1:17), God reminds us that He is going to choose Jerusalem again! As we will see in Chapter 4, this is the magnificent hope the Laodiceans need to recapture. Whatever the trials and challenges that lie before us, we will be able to endure if we never let our focus slip from the vision of God choosing Jerusalem.

“Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation” (Zechariah 2:13). When the Tribulation begins, the whole world should take great hope. Jesus Christ will soon intervene and save mankind! All flesh will be ruled by God—every person on Earth!

Continue Reading: Chapter 2: Zerubbabel and Joshua